Many people – probably including some people you know – swear that a compressed work schedule allows them to better balance their personal and professionals lives.  Doctor appointments can be made (and kept); trips to the grocery store or warehouse club store can be made outside of peak shopping times; even exercise can be worked into the day.

A compressed work schedule allows an employee to work a traditional 40 hour workweek in less than 5 days.  There are many different types of compressed schedules.  For example, with a 4/10 schedule employees would work four 10-hour days in one week (instead of five 8-hour days) and have one extra day off a week.  Another option is a 9/80 schedule (which operates over a two-week period).  Here employees work four 9-hour days and one 8-hour day the first calendar week and four 9-hour days with a day off the second calendar week.    The options are endless.

Benefits for working a compressed work week may include:

1)      Not reporting to work one day a week or every two weeks. This can dramatically reduce commuting costs

2)      Ability to avoid peak commute times each day by arriving early and/or staying late.  This can further save commuting costs (i.e. wear and tear on your car and/or reduced public transportation fees)

3)      Ability to address other commitments in your life, such as visiting elderly parents or volunteering at your children’s school one day a week.

4)      Ability to preserve a full-time income.

Challenges for working a compressed work week may include:

1)      Restricting access to public transportation which usually provides limited coverage during off-peak periods

2)      Dependent care coverage – to match the compressed work schedule – may be hard to find

3)      Current work-family conflicts may not be solved by a regular day off.

4)      After-work activities must also be “wedged” into the remaining hours of each work day.

5)      Your position may be too physically or mentally draining for a compressed work week.

However, before you approach your HR department, consider whether or not this lifestyle is right for you.  If you are a parent, you will be giving up many mornings and evenings with your children.  If you are a single parent with young children, finding adequate childcare could be extremely hard.   If you have a physically or mentally taxing job, the longer schedule could drain you.

Everyone’s life is different and the perfect schedule for one person may not work for another.  You need to weigh your desire for a compressed work week with the realities of your life, your work style,  and any professional development needs you have.

Do some true soul searching.  How would you really take advantage of an extra day off every week (or every other week)?  Would you spend this time on travel, family, chores (etc.), and would you get enough accomplished to make this schedule worth pursuing?  If you are unsure, take out a pad of paper and pen (or even one of the many scheduling apps available for both iPhone and Android) and sketch out how a compressed work schedule would meld with your personal life.  Finally, find some other people who work a compressed work schedule and who are in the same place in their lives as you.  Ask them what they see as both the pros and cons of the situation.

Remember, the key is to find the best fit between the daily responsibilities of your job and your personal responsibilities.

NOTE:  A full-color downloadable PDF is available